A single child may be at a higher risk of developing obesity as compared to those who have siblings, says a new study.
Researchers studied the eating habits and body weight of only children. Single kids were found to have less healthy eating and drinking habits than families with multiple children.
The study further found that the mothers of an only child were more likely to be overweight themselves. “We know that obesity is very strongly connected within families so it is certainly possible that could explain the difference in this study,” pediatrician Dr Natalie Muth, who chairs American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Obesity, was quoted as saying.
Suggesting other possibilities explaining the association between an only child and obesity, Dr Muth added, “Perhaps there is more food to go around. Or that they are less active because they don’t have a live-in peer to play with them. Or maybe there is a biological factor at play.”
Lead author Chelsea Kracht from Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center explained, “With multiple children you’re scheduling a little bit more of your meals. So we’re going to have more at-home meals. We’re probably going to have less fast food.”
Several studies in the past also identified a link in weight gain and being an only child. One such study in 2017, published in Public Health, found that only sons out of nearly 20,000 single children in China were 36 per cent more likely to be overweight, and 43 per cent more likely to be obese than sons with siblings.
So, how does one cope with childhood obesity? “You have to reduce the screen time [and] control the amount of fast food. It’s doable,” said psychologist Toni Falbo, University of Texas, who has been researching on single children since the 1980s.
“Parents of only children who are aware of this increased risk may be able to prevent overweight or obesity in their child by paying extra attention to creating a healthy and active home environment,” Dr Muth added.